Obama carries big fundraising lead into final months

Christina Cocca

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With the 2012 presidential election around the corner, the majority of donors who make the candidates’ campaigns possible are out in the open for the voting public.

Barack Obama has raised more than $348 million ($348,413,128), while Mitt Romney has raised more than $193 million ($193,373,762).

Most corporations and the amount of their contributions must be made available to the public, with the exception of super political action committees, or super PACs, which may keep donor names secret, according to law.

Obama has $0 in PAC contributions while Romney has $838,481. An individual may only contribute $5,000 per calendar year to PACs.

Tom Hogen-Esch, a political science professor at CSUN for 10 years, said voters have negative perceptions of donations.

“Voters have a tremendous amount of cynicism, and people are pretty frustrated with all of the secret money and secret donors,” Hogen-Esch said. “The floodgates of secret money have opened in American politics.”

Romney’s campaign has received most of its money from some of the largest banks. In order of amount, Romney’s five biggest contributors have been: Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and Credit Suisse Group, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.

Obama’s campaign has received most of its funding from universities and other corporations. In order of amount, Obama’s five biggest contributors have been: University of California, Microsoft Corp., Google Inc., DLA Piper and Harvard University, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.

Further down the list of Obama’s donors are other universities such as Stanford University, Columbia University and the University of Chicago.

Wells Fargo and JPMorgan Chase & Co. have donated to both campaigns, with Wells Fargo giving $320,025 so far to Romney’s campaign and only $170,448 to Obama’s. JPMorgan Chase & Co. has given $520,299 to Romney and only $152,990 to Obama, according to the Center For Responsive Politics.

“In 2008, it was Obama who got money from the banks, and they’ve switched sides almost completely to Romney,” Hogen-Esch said.

The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organizations’ PACs, their individual members, employees or owners, and those individuals’ immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.

Individuals may contribute up to $2,500 per election to federal candidates for president, the U.S. senate and the U.S. House of Representatives, and up to $30,800 per year to national party committees during the current two-year election cycle, according to the Federal Election Commission.

An individual’s total contribution to all federal campaigns, parties and other political committees combined may not exceed $117,000 per calendar year, according to the FEC.

Another important donor on the campaign agenda has been Planned Parenthood, with nonstop debates between parties over women’s sexual and reproductive rights.

Serena Josel, deputy director of the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Project, said Planned Parenthood does not necessarily support an entire party but rather a specific candidate’s support of the company’s goals.

“We have a long history of Republicans involved with Planned Parenthood here in California,” Josel said. “At the federal level, there aren’t as many Republicans now who support (Planned Parenthood).”

“Only one presidential candidate supports contraceptives, abortion, STD testing and life-saving cancer screenings, and that is Barack Obama,” Josel said.

Candidates spend the donor money in several areas. The 2012 combined presidential expenditures shows almost half the money is spent on media like broadcast, Internet and print ads. More than 25 percent is spent on administrative fees like travel, staff salaries and consultants. Around 12 percent is spent on campaign expenses like direct mail, polling research and campaign materials, and another 12 percent spent on fundraising events and telemarketing.

Information on who donates to each candidate’s campaign is available online and can be searched by company or employer, city/state, zip code or full name.